Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Thursday, October 02, 2008

TGIF: When dreams and profits collide

It's been about a year since current Riverside County Sheriff's Department Sheriff Stan Sniff was appointed to this position by the divided Board of Supervisors after the departure of Bob Doyle. An eventful year, according to many people as a look is taken backwards.

It was an eventful meeting at Riverside City Hall where the Development Committee met to discuss several new projects proposed by private out-of-county developers including frequent election campaign contributor, Mark Rubin. Remember him? He's the one who wanted to put in a slew of mixed used condos before the housing market tanked and now has decided not to sell them (because he can't) but to rent them out "short-term". Does that mean, "short-term" as in six months, a year? Or short-term meaning until the housing market recovers in about five years?

It's funny though because Mayor Ron Loveridge and other members on the dais have said a lot about encouraging and preserving home ownership for families and especially Loveridge has lamented time and time again about the fact that Riverside's housing is about 44% rental housing, so much so that the city pushed for home ownership for at least the first year of residency for one of its new housing projects that was built between downtown and the 60 freeway. In fact, when city officials got wind that rental notices were being distributed in connection with one housing project, it took immediate action to penalize those parties who violated that portion of the purchase agreement.

Now, one huge housing crisis later, the situation has apparently changed and downtown will be going rental again to fill those empty units which were to sell for about $500,000 in more carefree times when people were playing the housing market like the stock market. Many fans of former councilman, Dom Betro touted Rubin's projects as a remedy against the continued proliferation of rental housing downtown but what's happened is that instead, the number has grown because it's difficult to sell housing especially newly built housing, especially condos anywhere. But now there's more rentals and considering that the city government often treats renters like the pox, it's a bit ironic but it's not like anyone shouldn't have seen the housing bust coming a mile away. Those folks who went to the huge party at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium to express concerns about the multi-billion dollar five-year growth plan and were pretty much labeled party-poopers saw it coming. For seeing that the economy goes up for a while and then it comes back down, sometimes with a crash particularly when it's stripped of any accountability regulations.

The same glut applies to office space which the city currently carries about a 40% occupancy rate for filling and yet more office space is in demand. That's the figure I received when I asked less than a year ago about the status of such office space in this city. With some reelection bids no doubt being launched next year, it's not a bad way to do some fund raising given that some developers have been regular contributors to campaigns and these developers have hinted that hardened economic times may dry up some of these campaign funds if they don't have anyway to pay for them.

When the Museum Metropolitan Board and the City Council committee collide.

It was one of those projects inside a Redevelopment Agency zone downtown which created the most consternation from people who packed the Mayor's Ceremonial room to try to express their concerns and ask their questions (only a few of which were answered) before the motion, second and passage of the project was made although the council members' speech was inaudible, the women sitting near me asked "what did they just mumble" and I had to answer, "I think that was their decision and it's probably the same one they had made before walking into the room." "Oh yeah, we know that" the woman responded back with a sigh. That's a sentiment that many people have about the city government these days. That the decisions that used to be made in committee before the issue got to the full city council were being made before the issues even got to committee. That provides the perception that many people feel that open meetings have become backroom meetings when it comes to decision making on many issues at the 'Hall. Watching council members or committee members sit there and make hardly a sound before in toto passing motions does little to challenge that belief system.

The writing was on the wall when the city council voted to forgo reviewing agenda items involving interdepartmental money transfers and borrowing a while back that this city council doesn't seem to want to involve itself in very much, stripping the financial process in the city of regulations similar to the situation which took place on a much larger national scale when doing so with Wall Street began to severely impact Main Street. Even when ethics experts argued against any good reason for doing this, the city government voted to do so anyway.

Chairman Mike Gardner who won a tight runoff election in Ward One which includes the downtown area said that one of the platforms that he used to run for election was a more accessible government that was more open to hearing opinions from you know, its constituents? In other words, its employers? Which is kind of funny because even as Gardner clearly allows much more public comment at meetings he chairs than does any other city council member or mayor, he shares this committee assignment with two councilmen who love to sit on the dais and make personal attacks at people who come up to the podium to criticize them. One of them is apparently even careless enough to brag that the two of them have an arrangement to handle their critics this way. Maybe the advice to this elected official should be this, loose lips sink ships but then on the other hand, better they stay loose.

The women including the minister from the First Congregational Church seriously kicked some butt at the meeting with their comments and their probing questions, never backing down towards the condescension that came from some of the elected officials and the prized developer. It's funny watching women actually engage some of the male city council members. You can quickly tell which ones take offense at it and which ones don't just through their body language. But these women seriously rocked and they're to be commended for standing up for what is right and standing together for at least their right to be notified by the city about a development project you know, before the jackhammers start tearing up the pavement practically outside their doors.

But part of me worried since some of these rather uppity women were elderly which reminded me of the whole "gadflying while elderly" expulsions at city council last year and the previous year including that of the poor woman who violated the three-minute speaking rule for talking about her house being flooded with sewage because a city-owned pipe burst.

What it came down to is that the city is apparently planning to give exclusive negotiation rights to a developer to build offices (which is hard to fill) and some parking downtown (which is necessary) but failed to tell institutions in the immediate area of the proposed property that anything was going on. The First Congregational Church which is practically adjacent to the property found out via a leak some place and the Metropolitan Museum Board chair found out from the church. The meeting was a reminder that it's not just businesses (or more accurately, "the Chamber" and the "Riverside Downtown Partnership") that rule downtown, there's quite a few religious institutions as well including some housed in historic landmarks. Not to mention what one woman referred to fondly as tomorrow's "museum row". Sounds like a dream worth having and worth realizing for the city's future.

And why is it important for the Metropolitan Museum Board to get wind of what's going on if only indirectly? Because the land that the board had believed was going to be used for museum expansion (which was a huge issue just a short while ago) may instead be
handed off to a developer. I have to say, it took a little less time than I thought before the promising path of late involving the contentious expansion and renovation of two of downtown's most venerable institutions would go back into a rather unsettling direction.

The woman who chaired the Metropolitan Museum Board had tears in her eyes as she heard the news from the committee members about the proposed project. Her question to the panel of Gardner and Councilmen Frank Schiavone and Steve Adams went unanswered. Gardner did speak with her afterward and said that there might be another location for the museum expansion but he couldn't say anything more about it at that time. But the latest development which casually slipped out during a city council subcommittee about one of the city's most popular issues just served as a reminder that it's not enough to get an issue addressed by the city council, it's also necessary to remain vigilant and keep on and up on the issues.

The Metropolitian Museum Board meets on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. in the museum's conference room and there will probably be an agenda item on this. The chair did a really great job at the meeting trying to find out the truth on this issue and why the city appears to already be straying from its commitment to follow through on the recommendations that it voted to approve from the city's task force to address the renovation and expansion of the downtown library and museum. Hopefully, she won't receive a letter from a city councilman rebuking her for opening her mouth.

The barely there Community Police Review Commission executive manager, Kevin Rogan tried to sell the latest changes in protocol in the investigation of officer-involved deaths to the Group and at least one attendee, Riverside Police Department Captain John Carpenter agreed with him. As for most everyone else? They saw a former police officer and a current police officer agree with each other about the weakening of civilian oversight in Riverside and seemed doubtful that there really was, as Rogan tried to say, nothing to worry about. I didn't attend the eventful meeting but I heard about it throughout the day and well into the evening.

Much is being made about the much ballyhooed provision in the CPRC's policies and procedures Section VIII(b) that states that the CPRC is to begin investigating after the completion of the police department's own investigations. A position that was utilized by one councilman publicly and two other elected officials behind closed doors or to a limited audience. But what Section VIII actually refers to and what these elected officials of course won't tell you is that this pertains to citizen complaint investigation and review not that involving officer-involved deaths of which there is no mention of in the entire text here.

Chair Brian Pearcy convened an ad hoc committee to address this issue in a manner that was independent and transparent to the public but before this committee could complete its work, City Manager Brad Hudson had issued its directive. Percy, allegedly in transit on a European holiday, expressed his wishes for the committee to continue its work regardless but one member Ken Rotker not long after allegedly meeting with his councilman, Chris MacArthur purportedly to discuss the role of legal counsel (as some council members had met on similar issues with commissioners from their ward at around the same time), pushed a motion to disband the committee which narrowly passed. Even Pearcy at that point voted against the same committee he had convened at one meeting and championed at its next.

These are the facts of what happened, facts that the elected officials are omitting from their arguments to support Hudson's directive. Unfortunately, there is what they tell you and then there's the truth. Did any of these elected officials even mention the rest of the story behind the creation of the policies and procedures? Or how Chief Russ Leach said he thought it was best for the commission to decide how to handle its own investigation, according to minutes from a meeting held in August 2002? Or how quiet it was for eight years while the CPRC investigated incustody deaths early on during that time period the three authors of the recent opinion office referred to as the time things were moving smoothly (as opposed to right now in the wake of the directive)?

I didn't think so.

Corona's city government has cut over 100 jobs from its roster to save millions of dollars.

Riverside County's tax collector will soon become the county's chief finance officer

Did conflict of interest impact a Temecula city council member's vote? Rescue Temecula thinks so.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Under penalty of perjury, Rescue Temecula member Volker Lutz filed the complaint against Jeff Comerchero with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces conflict of interest laws.

The Sept. 18 complaint cites articles in The Press-Enterprise, public records requests and other materials in alleging that Comerchero broke state law when he voted in December 2003 on a series of land purchases for Temecula's $66.1 million civic center complex in Old Town.

Comerchero on Wednesday denied any wrongdoing. He said in a phone interview that the complaint's timing appeared to be politically motivated, because two of his fellow council members, Mike Naggar and Chuck Washington, are running for re-election in November.

"Any attempt to discredit me, they'd attempt to latch onto (Naggar and Washington to say) 'See, we told you they were all crooks,' " Comerchero said. "I have always been an open book. Let anybody come and ask any question they want and I'll provide an honest answer."

Comerchero, whose term expires in 2010, said he plans to hire an attorney to represent him in the matter.

Jury selection may begin soon in the federal corruption trial of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona.

One NYPD officer shot another in the leg at the shooting range.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Officer Vincent Krill was trying to unjam Detective Charles Enright's 9-mm. service weapon when the gun accidentally fired, sources said.

Enright, a 23-year veteran assigned to Gov. Paterson's New York City security detail, was shot once in the right thigh. The slug hit the detective's hipbone and shattered, with bullet fragments exiting through his groin, sources said.

Enright was in stable condition Tuesday in Jacobi Medical Center's intensive care unit, sources said.

Krill, also a department veteran, was "devastated" by the accident, which is now under investigation by the NYPD, a source said.

A New York City Police Department lieutenant who committed suicide after being placed on desk duty for his role in a controversial fatal tasing of a mentally ill man didn't want to shame his children.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

n a gut-wrenching suicide note, Emergency Service Unit Lt. Michael Pigott wrote that he put a bullet into his head Thursday to spare his three children from seeing him in handcuffs or behind bars, police sources said.

The standup lieutenant also took full blame for the botched death of Iman Morales, absolving the officer who fired the Taser of any responsibility.

"His note was heartbreaking," one police source said. "He said he didn't want his kids to see him cuffed up and jailed. He also said not to blame the other officer. ... He said it was his fault."

The shocking suicide, on Pigott's 46th birthday, came only hours before family members mourned Taser victim Morales at a Greenwich Village funeral.

"It's my fault," the lieutenant wrote before his death.

More on the life of Lt. Michael W. Pigott.

(excerpt, New York Times)

He was levelheaded, calm, mild mannered, an ideal cop in many ways. In 21 years on the force, Michael W. Pigott made scores of arrests working in some of the city’s toughest precincts, won 20 medals for bravery and meritorious duty, and became a lieutenant in the elite Emergency Services Unit.

“Not your typical police officer,” said Jon O’Shaughnessy, a New York City fire marshal and an old friend. “That’s why he was a lieutenant. He was a very positive, upbeat guy. He could have retired last year.” The friend could say no more: His voice broke, and he began to cry.

Also in the NYPD, four officers exposed to HIV while on the job received disability retirements after a court ruling.

A shakeup in the command structure might also be coming to the NYPD. To those at the highest level of command, Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, "don't get too comfy".

Another day, another family member deployed to Iraq.

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